?Mentor? program raises questions

Last spring, Tayler Clough, president of the Associated Students of the University of Utah, campaigned with a promise to install a U-sponsored student mentoring program for Utah high schools. But as ASUU approaches a vote on the program, we wonder if “mentoring” is the right word.

The proposed program would spend $15,000 every year for 14 graduate students, who would be paid $1,000 each, to travel to Granite School District high schools every week and offer advice about how to apply to the U. In addition to information about how to complete the application, the mentors would offer information about U scholarships and financial aid.

Helping students successfully make the transition between high school and college sounds like a worthy goal. However, whether this program would meet that goal is questionable. Most university admission applications are simple to complete. For example, the U’s application is available online and can be filled out in minutes. Even U-sponsored scholarship applications are fairly simple and can be filled out online simultaneously with the admissions application. Asking students to spend $15,000 to walk high school students through a process they could do by themselves with 15 minutes and a speck of interest seems like a waste.

The program isn’t a true mentoring program at all, but a U-specific recruiting effort. Although a “mentoring” program sounds nice, U students shouldn’t be asked to use their fees to recruit more students. If passed, the administration will have managed to financially outsource recruiting to the student body.

Despite doubts concerning the validity and efficiency of the program itself, Clough is seeking to amend the ASUU constitution to make it permanent. Doing so seems premature, since there is no indication of whether the program will be a success. If the program fails to live up to expectations, ASUU would have to do the entire, tedious legislative process in reverse just to eliminate the amendment.

If the amendment passes, funds to support the program’s first year will be pulled from the general reserve, a fund composed of surplus student fees. The program would then be paid out of the ASUU executive budget every subsequent year. But ASUU Vice President Rachel Rizzo said the program would not go into effect until at least fall 2010, after a new ASUU administration has been elected. Clough would escape any effect on his budget while decreasing the budgets of future ASUU administrations by $15,000.

The title of the program is misleading, the need for the program is doubtful, and student fees shouldn’t be utilized to pay for recruiting in the first place. Even in the absence of these problems, making the program a permanent amendment to the ASUU constitution before it is proven is unwise. ASUU legislators would do well to vote against the amendment.

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